Setting the scene for transformation of Ben Franklin Parkway

The car-centric Ben Franklin Parkway could one day soon be a pedestrian’s heaven. Better crosswalks to navigate car traffic and a street dotted with sitting areas, spray grounds, and sports courts are among the ideas for the future of the busy thoroughfare.

Philadelphia officials will unveil their makeover plan for the parkway, called “More Park, Less Way,” Monday night.

The Ben Franklin Parkway has an array of attractive features already. But even a quick walk shows that — with cars flying past and a bunch of underused space — there’s room for improvement. Parks and Recreation Commissioner Michael DiBerardinis says the city’s plan will make the parkway better and easier to navigate on foot.

“We will put forward the plan with its major features: the creating of the new recreation space, the emphasis on north-south pedestrian crosswalks, and the programming ideas, and then we’ll have some folks from the neighborhoods respond to it,” he said.

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DiBerardinis says it’s time to take better care of public space and better position it in the life of the city. He hopes the new and improved parkway will help draw people from nearby neighborhoods onto the thoroughfare.  

Ideas for the transformation include offering more sitting and recreation opportunities and making it a more pedestrian-friendly street.

“The parkway has, for the last 100 years been a central part of the civic life of Philadelphia,” says Harris Steinberg, executive director of Penn Praxis, the clinical consulting arm of the School of Design at the University of Pennsylvania, which helped create the plan. “And now citizens who live on either side of the parkway are really beginning to claim the space, and I think they’re just really going to be excited about what’s to come.

Steinberg says the parkway has great potential — 70,000 people live within a 10-minute walk. That’s enough, he says, to support new park space and possibly playgrounds and other recreation areas.

The recommendations are designed to be implemented by 2015.

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